IDENTITYRITES: Giving a voice to Adoptees disconnected from their Birth right.
· Deprived of knowledge of identity, heritage, and medical information
· Issued with false birth certificates
· Denied public acknowledgement and awareness of the lifelong impact of separating us from our blood families.
We seek to quench the yearning for the dignity of genetic connection.
As a result of an announcement during the Apology, the government commissioned a ‘scoping study’ to be undertaken by the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS). The AIFS decided it only need consult further with Service Providers, because the Study for the Report had consulted widely with all parties to Adoption. The founding members of our group did not feel that the voices of Adoptees had been adequately represented, even though they were the largest group of respondents to the surveys.
Our group believes Adoptees have needs which are not recognised by most current service providers, or by the idealised adoption industry. Our experiences generally have been of hostility towards Adoptees who speak out about the reality of their lives.
There is evidence that children separated from their mothers at birth suffer complex trauma. A significant scar remains, which can always be opened by subsequent life events. Many of us never experience the safety and security of a strong attachment to another person at birth or later, and build our lives and relationships on an insecure foundation. We live with a ‘Primal Wound’.
It is our position that Adoptees need service providers who are outside the adoption industry, and who are able to recognise our needs. Our needs often conflict with those of other parties to adoption. One agency cannot truly support all parties. For example:
One of our members wanted to write a letter to her blood mother. She wanted information about her father because she had escalating medical problems and doctors were asking for family history. The service provider agency helped her write the letter, asking for information about her father. Before sending the letter they added a paragraph offering her mother confidentiality. When the mother responded they were unable to tell the Adoptee what the mother had said.
They could not explain their actions, other than by providing copies of Policy Statements. They could not explain what they saw as their purpose in writing the letter, if it was not to act on behalf of the Adoptee who wanted information. They could not explain what they were going to do with the information other than to file it away confidentially. The Adoptee was denied access to the information she had sought. Repeating the pattern of her life; her personal information was not available to her, and she felt disempowered again.
We believe this is because the trauma of separation from the mother, and the resulting wound to the child is not recognised. Yet this scar is always present; this birthmark is not visible, but results in a profound sense of loss and grief, doubts, fears and anxieties. The services offered to Adoptees do not always address our basic requirements. The unrecognised trauma can result in us becoming re-traumatised.
Some of our members have received outstanding support from the services currently available and we want these to continue to be available to Adoptees. Members have had support finding families, mediation with family members, and being helped to understand the plight of birth mothers. Emotional support has also been given with great generosity.
Some of our members have had little support and even ended in a position where they harmed themselves for the first time in their lives after seeking support. They have also felt that their experiences were trivialised by the very few people employed to assist them with searching – to the point where they are reluctant to return and seek further information as they know this attitude will re-traumatise them, and so cannot get the information about their blood family they so desperately need. This is why we are asking for an additional specialized dedicated service for Adoptees.
Adoptee experiences need to be heard in all adoption training programs. As a group we offer to help prepare resources to enable this to happen. We propose to produce information pamphlets for distribution among health services. We also need an information brochure to explain to families of origin that it is normal to want to know our heritage. We seek funding for these resources.
We seek to have our voices heard. We seek support in balancing the myths and assumptions prevalent in society (and promoted by many service providers) that the earlier a child is ‘transferred’ the less damage is incurred. We want services to recognise that separating a mother and child at birth always results in trauma, and that trauma shapes a person’s life and makes them vulnerable to difficulties at all stages of life.
We want a national day of rituals recognizing the losses imposed on Adoptees by adoption.
We want to be recognised, acknowledged, validated, seen and heard.